National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 51 (January 3–9)
I’m sure that most of us are aware of the insurgent attack on the Capitol building complex, which interrupted electoral procedure for nearly six hours on Wednesday. It’s hard to make sense of that mob, which unquestionably perpetrated terrorism in their own nation’s seat of power, and it’s hard to make sense of Trump’s role in their organizing. It’s also a bit hard to make sense of the messy processes that followed it. I’ll do my best to lead you through the weeds, but I’m also around if anyone has questions or just needs to commiserate.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not an electoral college!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corner:
Last week I said that we had unquestionably experienced the worst round yet of Election Rejection, as it literally violated federal election law. Then this week said, “HOLD MY BEER.” Here’s what I have for you:
- Attempted Coup at the Capitol Building. On Wednesday early afternoon, at a rally held at the Ellipse, Trump encouraged thousands of his supporters to storm the Capitol building complex, noting that “I’m going to be watching because history is going to be made.” His armed mob of supporters then did exactly what he instructed, breaching the Capitol complex with weapons and zip ties and planting at least two explosive devices on the grounds. They forced congresspeople to shelter in place or evacuate and delayed proceedings for several hours, looting and vandalizing and threatening to execute Vice President Pence. Trump openly condoned the behavior in a video released during the assault, prompting Twitter to lock his account for 12 hours and then eventually ban him entirely. Five people died from the fray, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was fatally assaulted by rioters, and a sixth individual died a few days later by suicide. Virginia and Maryland ultimately sent in their national guard to deal with the chaos, and eventually Pence stepped up and ordered the DC National Guard in as well. Mayor Bowser imposed a 6pm curfew on the city and declared a state of emergency for the next fifteen days. Eventually after the mob was cleared, Congress resumed, and did finish counting the electoral college votes around 3:40am that morning. As events unfolded, news also began to trickle in that there were attacks at several other state houses on the same day insurrectionists attacked the Capitol.
- Criminal Consequences. Though only thirteen arrests occurred on-site, over the past week arrests and charges have begun to trickle in–it turns out people who literally took unmasked selfies of themselves doing the crimes are easy to identify later. At the time that I type this, total arrests number at least 70 so far; those arrested include a West Virginia state representative, a guy who photographed himself stealing a congressional podium, and a man who had eleven Molotov cocktails in his truck when he was apprehended. Additionally, at least two Capitol Police officers have been suspended for their actions on the day of the attack. A federal murder probe has also begun regarding the death of the Capitol Police officer. Meanwhile, news recirculates that Trump plans to pardon himself, which is likely because federal authorities are considering bringing criminal charges against him for incitement of violence.
- Social Media’s Role. One of the most stunning things about this past week’s assault is just how much it was planned in plain sight, and this has captured a great deal of attention in the past week. Almost immediately following the attack, a banning reckoning began for Trump and several prominent affiliates as social media platforms woke up and started trying to curtail white supremacist organizing. By the time of this draft, Trump and his brand have been banned from Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Stripe, Discord, Shopify, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitch, and Paypal. As Twitter began citing Trump’s role in insurrection as a grounds for permanent ban, a far-right organizing platform, Parler, began gaining more attention; Apple and Google both suspended the platform in their app stores and both Twilio and Amazon suspended their hosting of the app entirely. Due to the apparently common practice on Parler of uploading state identification to “prove citizenship,” it likely also will play a role in upcoming criminal prosecutions.
- Impeachment or 25th Amendment? At the time that I type this, it’s not fully certain what will happen politically in response to this week’s news, but it’s clear something is about to happen–almost immediately, several prominent Congresspeople began calling for another impeachment, invocation of the 25th Amendment, or both. By Friday, Nancy Pelosi had indicated that impeachment proceedings would begin on Monday, and sure enough, the House formally introduced an article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection earlier today. That said, Mike Pence apparently hasn’t ruled out invoking the 25th Amendment–though it may be hard to get rolling for reasons I’ll discuss below–and the House plans to formally call on him to invoke it tomorrow. (The National Association of Manufacturers has asked him as well.) If Pence refuses, which he probably will, the House will vote on the article of impeachment on Wednesday, and Pelosi likely already has the votes she needs. By this time next week, we’ll likely know a lot more about next steps, politically speaking.
- Resignation Rodeo. Likely wishing to avoid a 25th Amendment discussion, several members of Trump’s cabinet and staff have resigned in the past few days. Among those who are leaving: Cabinet members such as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf; former chief of staff and current special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney; and several more national security and cybersecurity officials. The departure of Chao and DeVos impacts the likelihood of success under the 25th Amendment, which requires a Cabinet majority; at present, only ten of fifteen Cabinet positions are even filled.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Inauguration Planning. Needless to say, the past week has changed a lot about inaugural planning, and it’s going to be a strange and scary week. With DC still in a state of emergency, Mayor Bowser is asking people to avoid DC for the next week, and no public access will be allowed on the grounds on Inauguration Day, though 15,000 National Guard troops will be present in the city. U.S. Secret Services is also beginning operations six days early. The FBI has put out a bulletin about armed protests being planned in all fifty states in the days leading up to Inauguration Day, and these concerns have additional credibility because of the attacks at several other sites on the same day insurrectionists attacked the Capitol.
- State of the COVID-19. It was easy to forget about COVID with everything else going on, but the pandemic is still here and it’s still very, very bad. We continue to see impact from Christmas travel in death rates, infection rates, and hospitalizations rates. At least one member of Congress tested positive after sheltering in place during Wednesday’s riot. The new variant continues to raise infection rates. Vaccine distribution also continues to evidence a number of issues: 1) Fast distribution is difficult because the vaccine must be administered within six hours of being removed from deep refrigeration, forcing health providers to either throw away expired doses or administer them to people who shouldn’t yet qualify; 2) Some people (though not many) are being found to have allergic reactions; and 3) Underfunding remains a serious logistical problem.
- Black Lives Still Matter. The stark differences between police reaction on Wednesday and police actions at Black Lives Matter protests over the summer have not escaped attention over the last week, and in fact several officials have credibly claimed that it was hard to get the National Guard in place at all during the attack. Additionally this week, in Kenosha, the decision was officially made not to charge any police in the shooting of Jacob Blake. Meanwhile, there was yet another police shooting of a Black man in Minneapolis, and news also broke that a police chief who resigned in disgrace over Rayshard Brooks’s extrajudicial shooting in Atlanta has been hired to run the police department in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was shot. Needless to say, this is an awful backdrop to the white supremacist violence earlier this week, and now is an excellent time to support Black communities and the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Georgia Runoff Results. Amid the chaos of the past week, the Senate runoff election results haven’t fully sunk in, but these elections were both encouraging and the Warnock results are historic. Both Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff ultimately won their races, returning control of the Senate to Democrats and illustrating the sheer power of organizing for enfranchisement. The results mark the first time a Black American has ever served as a Senator from Georgia, and the first time Georgia has sent Democrats to the Senate floor in over twenty years. Much like the general election, it’s also worth noting that early turnout was very high, particularly among young voters.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this bird enjoying a free ride and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me photos of your pets!